Monthly Archives: May 2015

Taking Stock 3

I wish I could give every single one of you hug after all the love we got from our post about fostering on Monday. It was like all of these lovely, amazing people jumped on board our crazy train and said, “We’re in. We’re praying. We’re going to be a part of this, too.” It’s blown us away, and we love you all.


Cooking: An entire box of Kraft macaroni that I ate all by myself. Out of the pot. That was what happened when Morgan worked super late Tuesday and I had a nasty cold and needed some fake cheese lovin’.

Drinking: I rarely drink soda unless it’s free but I’ve bought two Coke Zeros this week because this cold is kicking my butt. Girl’s gotta get some energy mid-day, you know what I’m saying?

Reading: Shanghai Girls. My first summer novel has sucked me in. (Side note: I’ll buy any book at Goodwill that says “Bestseller” on the cover. I’m too trusting. This one might turn weird, but it’s good so far.)

Wanting: I want you to watch this video. I think I may be coming late to the party and everyone may have already seen it, but this is sacrificial, enduring love.

Wishing: I could have extended last weekend into a thousand days. We spent the holiday weekend with my parents, and we laughed hard and ate well and talked deep and soaked up the perfect weather. They are two of the most unbelievably amazing people in this universe, and I’ll never understand how I got so blessed to call them my parents.

IMG_2346 My view Monday morning. A man and his dog.

Writing: Always. But wanting to write more. I feel like I’ve been writing my name and address and medical records and criminal records (don’t have one suckahs) and every kind of record you could ever imagine on a billion forms for Social Services. It’s the best kind of paperwork, though!

Enjoying: My sweet friend Astleigh shared news of her pregnancy this week, and I’m enjoying not having to keep it a secret anymore!! And you guys won’t even believe the way they announced it. Astleigh is, without a doubt, my most creative friend. I’m enjoying the thought of her as a mama because she’s going to be extraordinary. She and her husband had a miscarriage a few months ago, and this pregnancy is a reminder of the Lord’s faithfulness and our smallness compared to His perfect plans.

Waiting: We shared our fostering news with you, and, though we’re busy getting everything ready, we’re also waiting so anxiously for things to get rolling. It’s a waiting period filled with a lot of prayer and hard talks. Fostering is interesting because you can only prepare so much–we don’t know the age, the gender, the number, the situation…until an hour before they show up at our door in some cases. “Waiting” is forced, and that’s so good for us. I’m a spastic planner by nature, and fostering is taking me out of what is comfortable and pushing me to trust.

Listening: Found an acapella Pandora station to jam to during work this week. Considering it a pregame for Pitch Perfect 2, which I’m finally seeing Saturday!!

Loving: It’s wedding season, and I can’t get enough of it. We celebrated a high school friend this past weekend in Charlottesville, and the venue overlooked the mountains. Swoon. We leave a week from today for Indiana to watch my cousin get married, and things get a little rowdy when my family gets together. It’s going to be cray-cray, and I can’t wait.

IMG_2326For every 1 good picture, we have about 10 that look like this.

Dreaming: Y’ALL. Morgan just told me to pack a bag–we’re going on a surprise anniversary trip tonight and I AM SO EXCITED! When people ask me what my love language is, I say every single one of them. I love all of the love languages. This man knows my heart. I cannot wait.

Pondering: I am so creeped out by the “People You May Know” feature on Facebook. How and why do you sneak into my past, Facebook?!

Watching: Last night, one of my best friends came over to work on her wedding invitations, and we had Legally Blonde on in the background. I forgot how amazing that movie is…and I also forgot how I can recite most of the lines.

Marveling: That for two years, I’ve woken up next to the most dreamy guy in the whole world. Expect the most mushy-gushy post you’ve ever read on Monday when we celebrate two years of us.

Needing: Have I said the beach for this each week? Because I still need it. I need a full week at the beach. And a full cooler and a full bag of books by my side.

Wearing: black maxi skirt, white tank, blue patterned scarf from Loft

Craving: Raspberries are 4 for $5 at Kroger. I’m obviously craving multiple pints of those.

Rocking: I’m starting to rock this thing called “lipstick” that I’ve been terrified to try my whole life. But, thanks to Ree Drummond’s makeup roundup, I feel less like a creepy china doll and more like an adult who should wear more than chapstick.

Thinking: Did I mention Morgan is taking me on a surprise trip? Because I cannot stop thinking about THAT. Follow me on Instagram, and I’ll post pictures maybe.

Feeling: some heartache for some of my best friends. There’s an aching part of me that just wants to fix and save, but I can’t and never have been able to. Resting in this truth from Bonhoeffer: “It seems to me more important actually to share someone’s distress than to say smooth words about it.” So I’m closing my mouth and opening my arms and hugging the crap out of these dear friends, all while praying that God would be their strength and comfort.

Admiring: [This post is talking a lot about my people. I don’t hate it.] It’s the last day of school for a lot of counties in our area, including my best friend Brittney’s. She teaches special education at an inner city school, and she is truly changing the lives of her students. I admire her drive, her perseverance, and the tenacious love she’s got for some really tough kids. Brit, you are unbelievable. The lucky kids who had you as a teacher this year are walking out those double doors today feeling infinitely more loved and cherished than they did 9 months ago, and that’s because you didn’t give up on them. (Here’s an article I wrote about a year ago that was inspired by Brit.)

Disliking: Gross head colds at the beginning of summer that keep me from doing anything but lay on my couch and watch Hart of Dixie.

Giggling: this

Bookmarking: “God is not a belief to which you give your assent. God becomes a reality whom you know intimately, meet everyday, one whose strength becomes your strength, whose love, your love. Live this life of the presence of God long enough, and when someone asks you, ‘Do you believe there is a God?’ you may find yourself answering, ‘No. I do not believe there is a God. I know there is a God.'” Ernest Boyer, Jr.

Becoming Foster Parents

imageedit_3_2370577111 Are you crazy?

Yes. Absolutely. We are well aware.

Why?

We believe that foster care and adoption are some of the greatest depictions of the Lord’s love for us: without doing anything to earn His love, God chose us as members of His family. Through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we–undeserving, unworthy, sinful, lost without Him–have been adopted as sons and daughters in His kingdom. Because of that, we fully believe that Christians should be a people marked by their love for the fatherless.

James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” We want to make exceedingly clear that we don’t interpret this verse as every single Christian must adopt or foster–but we do believe that we are all called to care for orphans.

For us, we feel an undeniable call to welcome little human beings into our home–for however long they need to be in our home. Morgan and I both have a huge heart for kids, and, while we still sometimes feel like children ourselves, we’re confident that God wouldn’t place this on our hearts for no reason. We live in a county that is sadly known for child abuse, drug use, and just an overall darkness, but we don’t believe it has to stay that way.

In addition to sharing the good news of who Jesus is with these kids, we are equally as ready to try and build relationships with biological families. For a lot of these moms and dads, they’ve landed in horrible circumstances, and we want to be support for them as they turn their life around.

I wish foster care on no one. Nothing about this system is ideal for the child, but we believe in reunification with biological parents when reunification is safe and healthy. We want to be a part of redeemed families. Ultimately, our prayer is that God’s grace and His glory is proclaimed through our weakness. And that, through welcoming these kids into our home, the Lord and His love would take on new meaning.

How are you feeling?

Inadequate, terrified, anxious, grateful, and excited.

I don’t love using the word “excited,” because a child being placed in our home means that a child is taken out of all they know. There is nothing exciting about that. But we are excited to be a part of the life of these little souls–if only for a few weeks. We are excited to make their time with us a time that they can look back on and think, “I understand what love is and who God is a little better because of those people.”

What will that look like with jobs and stuff?

Nothing will change with our jobs. We’re blessed to be going through a county that provides day care. It will drastically change our lives and the way we use our time, but it’s worth it.

How are you ever going to be able to say goodbye to these kids?

We have absolutely no clue, but we do know that we’d never, ever want our fear of saying goodbye to keep us from being foster parents. As many of you know, I’m a hot mess when it comes to emotions, and that was one of the first questions Morgan asked me when we started praying about fostering. What I said then, I meant–my heartache from a goodbye is worth every second of giving these kids a safe place to live while they are with us. We will pour our hearts into these kids while they are home with us, and we will mourn when they leave, but we are advocates for safe and good reunification.

Where are you in the process?

We have gone through our training and are currently in the process of filling out the seemingly mile-high stack of paperwork. We are taking it slow, and we won’t take placements until at least this fall. We are in the process of becoming foster parents, meaning we are making ourselves as open as possible to God’s divine plan. If He wants us to simply go through this process, we trust that He will teach us something through it. We’ve got three parts of a home study, background checks, and references to still get through. I want to be transparent about this whole process through the blog, so that’s why I’m introducing it early on! Look forward to lots of fostering-related posts.

Please pray alongside us–for wisdom through the process, for the biological parents, and for the souls of the sweet kids who will come into our home. We are so thankful for you all!

Book Recommendation: A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet

IMG_2306Picture the stereotypical Southern woman. Cooking fried chicken, swinging on the front porch, cheering on her favorite SEC team, sipping on some sweet tea. Now multiple that by about 650, and you’ve got Sophie Hudson and her book A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet. And let’s just take a moment to recognize that her blog is titled Boo Mama. I adore her.

In the sweetness of family, there’s always a little salt–pain, death, fighting, sickness, and the occasional crazy in-law. Though Sophie’s family isn’t perfect, the trials she unfolds in this book show she is blessed–which is refreshing to see transparency, even in the little issues. But, if you’re looking for a deeper book to get you through some super rough patches, this probably won’t give you tons of wisdom. Her family loves deep and hard. It’s a pretty shallow look at the realities of lots of people’s lives, but I was able to connect and laugh my way through.

Due to her use of ALL CAPS, the way she captures conversations, and how she can poke fun without being mean, I felt like I was drinking coffee alongside Sophie while reading A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet. Her tone exudes this sense of comfort and familiarity, and I found myself reading her book in an internal Southern drawl. I actually went to YouTube after reading her introduction just to get a grip on the accent. (In case you were wondering, the voice in my head nailed it. This woman is a hoot.)

It took me about a month to get through, which is longer I expected out of a book just over 200 pages. Her writing style is fun to read, but she writes as if she’s talking and goes off on rants, forcing her to backtrack a bit sometimes. While it wasn’t a page-turner, it was a book that I could return to, that I could anticipate laugh-out-loud humor from, and that, in the midst of a whole lot of funny, connected crazy (and relatable) family stories to truth about the Lord, His faithfulness, and His love.

Let me just give you a rundown of some chapter titles: A Denominational Showdown in the Frozen Food Aisle. When Prayer Meeting Includes a Cocktail Hour. The Unexpected Ministry of the Cowbell. Saturday Lunch and the Fine Art of Funeral Planning.

Favorite character: Her mother-in-law, Martha, who is a firecracker of a five-foot-nothing woman and adds the article “the” to all stores and restaurants. Example: the Dillards, the Outbacks, the Western Sizzlin’, the Cracker Barrel, etc.

As per usual, I’ll share some favorite blurbs. Disclaimer: this book makes it HARD to pick a few. Because I snorted-laughed all month long.

On sort of/not really wanting to be a mom:

“I did enjoy dolls in the sense that they were nice to look at and all that, but mostly I just liked to have my dolls nap in my room while I sat with Mama on the couch in the den and watched Guiding Light and Match Game.

On legacies of faith:

“And what I know beyond a shadow of a doubt…is that if our generation wants the phrase legacy of faith to mean anything at all to those kids around the table–if we want to go beyond sprouting one more piece of Christian lingo that sounds really pretty but holds precious little significance in their lives–then we have to share our stories with them. We have to write them down, we have to say them out loud, we have to put away our phones and close our computers and linger at the table long after the meal is over. We have to make much of what God has done in our lives and what He continues to do. After all, why in the world would we keep our firsthand experiences with His faithfulness, His grace, His kindness, His mercy, and His joy all to ourselves?

On being at a sweltering hot wedding:

“I’ve spent most of my life steeped in a deeply traditional Protestant church culture, but that day? When my sizzling scalp and I encountered the sweet relief of an indoor environment where the thermostat was set to a brisk sixty-two degrees? I may have spoken in tongues.”

“I looked like I’d thrown on a dress in the car after finishing the ten-to-four shift on the highway repaving crew…I looked like I’d run a half marathon even though I’d just been, you know, standing.

On her mother-in-law’s struggle to gain weight:

“I don’t have the foggiest idea what it’s like to have to work at gaining weight. Because while I’m not good at much, gaining weight is something that I seem to be able to do fairly effortlessly. Perhaps I’m just gifted in that area. In fact, maybe I should volunteer to be Martha’s weight-gaining mentor. I feel that I could be of some service. Blessed to be a blessing!”

On the idolatry of football:

“I want so much more for Alex Hudson than thinking the end-all, be-all of life is to sit in a stadium and watch twenty-two guys battle it out on a field. I want so much more for him than viewing the numbers on a scoreboard as a gauge for happiness…Because what I want for him more than anything else is for him to follow Jesus with every bit of the fervor, passion, and excitement we saw that day in Starkville. If he is going to completely abandon himself to any purpose, any cause, any great good, please, Lord, let it be Jesus.

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet won’t hit my top 10 list anytime soon, but it was light, refreshing, and reminded me to be grateful for family–even the cuckoo ones. Let me know if you want to borrow it!

Taking Stock 2

My aspirations were oh so high this week to blog at least two other times. Those half-written non-masterpieces are sitting peacefully–albeit very incomplete–in my draft folder, and here we are at another Friday, Taking Stock of this past week. And, in a way, I’m grateful those blogs sit drafted because it illustrates that this week felt like a weekend, filled with so much community and late nights. We spent them laughing and cooking and watching funny shows and eating on our back porch with people we adore, just basking in the fact that this is what life looks like right now and it is so good. And (teaser) life won’t look like this for long so I’m going to embrace it.

P.S. I commit to telling you about that teaser on Monday, so come back and hear all about our crazy. For now, here’s where my heart and my brain and my life are at–


Cooking: This week was a cooking-baking-overload sort of week–which, if you know me, is the best kind of week. I baked these cookie bars for a police officer bake sale, and, as I type that, I realize that I am a soccer mom. Made some bruschetta chicken for a new mom, cookies for a potluck, grilled out with friends one night, and poor Morgan and I ate leftovers the rest of the week 🙂

Drinking: Tea this morning, loads of water today. I found pumpkin spice tea at Kroger on clearance for $0.39 and stocked up, but couldn’t bring myself to make that this morning–though it’s pretty brisk out.

Reading: Finally finished a book I’ve been reading for about a month (I’ll blog a review in the next few days). Up next are some classy/trashy summer reads that I’ve been accumulating from Goodwill. It’s a yearly tradition to buy a bunch of the sub-par, no-name books and find some diamonds in the rough in mindless summer reads.

Wanting: For my basil and thyme plants to actually create basil and thyme. I am NO gardener, but I found these sweet $3 pots at target and so badly want to fit in with my husband’s love for agriculture. Basil and thyme is my way in to the world of farming…and, from the looks of these little nubs of green sprouting through the soil, I think I’m going to be an expert green thumb in no time.

Playing: This week at work marks the one week of summer where students aren’t on campus, so it’s been full of staff appreciation days. On Wednesday, my coworkers and I played volleyball on some of the sand courts near residence halls, and it was a blast. Yesterday, we all looked pretty pathetic getting out of our chairs and walking up stairs. Even my ankles were sore…the indicator of how incredibly out of shape I am.

Wishing: That, instead of 5 hours, the beach was minutes away. Not solely because I love the ocean, but because I want to live near my sister. Can you just imagine a beach walking distance from our future farm? I think that’s what heaven will be like.

Writing: Some news stories, and starting to draft the blog post for Monday. I’m telling you guys…this is weighty, beautiful stuff. Trying to figure out how encapsulate our hearts into words.

Enjoying: I love a good icebreaker question to get a group meeting rolling, and I think I heard my favorite yesterday. “To know me is to know this about me.” The challenge of dialing into who you are by one phrase is intense but life-giving. Last night, I kept asking people how they’d answer. I’m that friend, folks.

Waiting: For tonight…when we head to Wintergreen to visit my parents for the holiday weekend and celebrate a great friend’s wedding tomorrow. Weekends like this are what dreams are made of.

Listening: My shuffled Pandora stations–includes The Lumineers, Avetts, Ben Rector, Taylor Swift, Mumford, All Sons & Daughters, etc.

Loving: I can’t believe that in just over a week, Morgan and I will celebrate our two year anniversary. I love that hilarious, servant-hearted, sweet, hard-working, goofy farmer.

Dreaming: Do you ever just stop and think about what your life is going to look like in just five years? It’s eery to think that lots of what I know now will be different, but comforting when I remember that my God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Pondering: About a month ago, I read an article in Garden and Gun about photography. The author made the passing comment that maybe pictures are hindering our memory. That, when we think of a person we haven’t seen in a while or an event from our past, we think of a picture of that person or that place and not an actual memory. This concept stuck, and I think about it often…but also wonder if it’s just the opposite. Maybe pictures enhance our memory…maybe we wouldn’t have a memory of a person or a time without that image. Food for thought, friends. Welcome to my brain.

Watching: We watched the first episode of An Idiot Abroad last night, and I think my abs are sore from laughing.

Hoping: That, for some reason, no one wants to come up to Wintergreen for the holiday weekend, and we get the entire resort to ourselves. One can dream, right? (I’m not a huge fan of “people.”)

Marveling: In these mountains, and the fact that I get to call them home.

IMG_0362Needing: WEEKEND.

Smelling: This week smells like pollen. And sounds like lots of sneezes.

Wearing: Jack Rogers, jeans (Friday–ayo!), black top, tan sweater, and a big blue statement necklace.

Craving: I had my first slice of watermelon of the summer last night, and now I want to eat ALL THE WATERMELON. Devouring juicy wedges makes me feel like I’m dieting while gorging myself because it’s like flavored water and dessert mixed into one, right?!

Rocking: This necklace. Y’all. $4 at Plato’s Closet. It looks sort of like this but better and bluer and cheaper.

Noticing: The people in this town are completely and totally and beautifully stealing our hearts. I don’t think we realized we could have this type of community outside of college, but we do and it’s glorious.

Thinking: What if, like wedding photographers and videographers, there were wedding writers? I love love and weddings and watching the day begin with two people and end with them united as one. They could hire us wedding writers to document their stories. But my good friend Kaitlyn does pretty much a flawless job at combining pictures with words so I guess she’ll suffice. 😉 No but for real. This girl is dynamic. Her words make me cry.

Feeling: Overwhelmed, excited, inadequate, and grateful.

Admiring: One of my coworkers has gotten me into spoken word poetry. Sarah Kay is my favorite I’ve found so far. Watch her TED Talk! This art form is unique because it puts a voice behind words, and I can promise you’ll be moved to hear a writer’s emotion behind her work. Also we watched these videos at work today–the most epic food marketing.

Giggling: Y’all. This precious kid is too much for me to handle. I want to scoop her up and take her home and ask her all the questions about presidents just to hear her sweet little voice.

Bookmarking: This a deep one. Read this, but listen to this while you read. Because it’s powerful and heart-wrenching and a deep, harrowing reminder that God is God, and we’re His hands and feet here.

“But we’re not about to cover up their stories with trite and flimsy distractions, we won’t act like what’s happening with ISIS isn’t the story of our times, isn’t the story that defies geography, isn’t the story that threatens the cradle of civilization…How do you turn away and go back to your neat little life of wheaties and news reels and how does the church not stand up and howl?” Ann Voskamp

Disliking: How the pain of the world is so distant from our sheltered view of reality that we can’t even grasp it. I read that blog linked above and stared into the eyes of those women in the pictures to convince myself that these are humans. BUT I am loving the end of that blog, when Ann Voskamp updates readers that the Church is stepping up and nearly half a million dollars has been raised. Heck yes I’m going to be a part of that. Will you join me?

Taking Stock

Life is so fun right now.

Summer is beginning. The sun is shining. New great friends just moved to Radford. We visit my parents next weekend. Wedding season has officially begun (read: free food, drinks, and dancing). It’s just all really, really good. And I want to document all the feels, so here is Taking Stock, a new Friday series. Maybe. If I remember. (These are the joys of writing for fun versus writing for work. NO RULES!)

Cooking: crockpot is on (dear God I hope) with balsamic pork inside
Drinking: water…because I had an extra cup of coffee today, and my hands are shaking.
Reading: A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet. Interspersed with a new Southern Living cookbook. But all my days are beginning in 2 Corinthians these days.
Wanting: November 15, when we sail away with Mickey Mouse (Two 20-somethings and two 50-somethings. Words are not adequate for how amazing this will be.)
Playing: this fun game I like to call “text Morgan six times in a row until he responds.”
Wishing: that my office was actually outside, underneath a tree…instead of inside, looking at a tree.
Writing: story pitches galore
Enjoying: though the weather channel said it was supposed to rain, the sun is shining bright.
Waiting: for the end of work and the start of weekend
Listening: this
Loving: summer weather in the middle of May
Dreaming: of the day today’s kind of writing job transforms into my dream kind of writing job
Pondering: how much more simple my life would look without a smart phone
Watching: season 7 of Friends
Hoping: that my crockpot is, in fact, on
Marveling: in the vastness of God’s love and the fact that He knows my name.
Needing: a trip to the water (and a tan)
Smelling: Pumpkin Latte & Marshmallow lotion from Bath & Body Works. It may be summer, but this fall scent sits on my desk year-round…thanks, Astleigh!
Wearing: ponytail because Friday; baseball tee; peach vest that’s a little too trendy for me; dark wash Gap jeans—rolled up, of course; Toms.
Craving: a massive Panera salad, followed by an Oreo McFlurry
Rocking: my new $3.99 Rimmel Scandal Eyes eyeliner. It sparkles! (When I showed it to Morgan yesterday, he said, “Oh…I thought your eyes were watering.” Bless his heart.)
Noticing: that my days, when explained in these verbs, are happy. And noticing that I love that.
Thinking: about what I want to do and who I want to be
Feeling: a good kind of anxious about what is next in life
Admiring: dreamers that follow through
Bookmarking: quotes that convict. Most recent: “When I’m writing, I’m very particular about what I listen to and what I read, because it gets inside, you know? I’m a little more permeable in seasons of writing, and so I want to choose stories and sounds that keep good company, that make me braver and wilder and more honest.” -Shauna Niequist
Disliking: how fast weekends pass
Giggling: this
Feeling: rested

Idea completely and totally stolen from Pip, a random blogger I found through Google. Thank you, Pip.

Blacksburg

Blacksburg is home to me. I love it. I love every single thing about it.

There’s no doubt that the root of it comes from being a Hokie. That giddy feeling when you catch your first glimpse of the Drillfield after being gone for a while. When you remember that directly below the magnitude and elegance of Burruss Hall stands a memorial to remember what made this campus strong. Thursday night football games, coffee dates at Deets, walks around the Duck Pond, late nights in West AJ (before it got all snazzy), and oh-my-heavens-that-food.

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I sat at West End today with my only undergraduate friend. And you better believe that I destroyed a Spicy Asian Chicken Wrap–whole wheat tortilla, white rice, lettuce, peppers, and onions. I said, “Load it up!” and laughed at my own cheesiness like a middle aged parent. Which is precisely how I feel walking around campus, though I’m just two years out.

I can’t get enough of this place. Maybe it’s that stretch of Prices Fork, right around Foxridge. I pass it twice daily as I head to and from work, and I am enamored by the rolling green hills that turn into mountains. Scattered are cows and tractors and that distinct Blacksburg smell (you know what I’m talking about) that, for some weird reason, I inhale.

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Maybe it’s the New River–a place that hosted about a trillion dates for Morgan and I during Blacksburg summers. I love those private beaches where we’d wade out to the rocks, Morgan jumping off of them, and me screaming at him to be careful. We’d head down to the farm, load up his rusty pick-up truck with firewood, grab his guitar, and spend many an evening on the river banks.

Or it’s those first few miles of the Huckleberry Trail, starting right outside the public library. “First few” because, let’s be honest, that’s all I can do–but it’s just enough to take in the tree-lined paths that pass by the German Club Manor, where I married the love of my life. Lane Stadium, in all it’s Hokie glory, makes itself known at mile marker one. It’s at mile marker two where I just want to sit Indian-style on the path and sit in admiration of the farmland (and rest from two miles of running). The people you pass will smile and wave, and you’ll smile and wave back because it’s the South and that’s what we do.

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I walked to class every day when I lived down South Main mainly for an excuse to not go to the gym, but inevitably got to walk down Draper and Preston, dreaming of the interiors of all those old homes. Who lives there and how do they get so lucky? My imagination convinces me that, behind those front doors, every house looks like the inside of Southern Living, and I love the thought of that. I never really want to see the insides because I’m certain reality isn’t quite as dreamy.

It’s Wine Wednesdays on Boudreaux’s rooftop, $6.25 pita pizza lunches at The Cellar, 50 cent day-old bread at Jimmy Johns, Tijuana Toss for free pizzas at PKs, fish tacos on the patio at Cabo, Arroz con Pollo at El Mariachis. We live 20 minutes from the heart of downtown Blacksburg, but our favorite Chinese restaurant is Chinese Kitchen and it never won’t be. On Valentine’s Day this year, it was a straight up blizzard, but we refused to get our “fancy take-out” from anywhere but CK. It took us a solid 2.5 hours to get there and back, and it was worth every minute and every laugh.

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It’s Monday nights at The Lyric, where the free popcorn doesn’t stop popping and the movies are usually weird. We post up on the balcony, retrieve our Dollar Tree candy we’ve snuck in, and attempt to cuddle in those uncomfortable seats with the unmoving armrests. There’s a new theater in town, but The Lyric will forever be our go-to.

At work, we joke that I was a pretty pathetic Hokie. I was involved in one club on a campus boasting more than 700. I’m a horrible advocate for getting involved, but, when I found my people, my days were jam packed with laughs and love and a whole lot of joy. We weren’t raised there, but we grew up in Blacksburg. That place taught us how to truly live. It’s where I found Jesus, my husband, and my best friends.

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Some people long for the hustle and bustle of a city, filled with new and exciting things to do. For me, though, I long for this: to drink Mill Mountain coffee on my back porch, go for a run on the Huck, pick up lunch downtown and throw out a blanket on campus for an impromptu picnic. Listen to local music. People-watch the townies at coffee shops. I love when Hokie Game Days make what is now my home full of traffic. I long for Mays when students leave, but also for Augusts when they return.

About a month ago, I was stopped on the sidewalk and asked to take a picture of a family visiting campus with their high school senior. I asked the senior what her plans were next year, and it was music to my ears when she said that, before that day, she’d been planning to go to another university about 150 miles east of us. She said, “But there’s no way I’m not coming here now that I’ve seen it.”

For all graduates this weekend–congratulations. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Come back as often as you possibly can. Go lay in the middle of the Drillfield one last time. Sit at the Pylons and breathe it in. Blacksburg steals a little piece of your heart when you leave. When September rolls around and football season reinstates, you’ll get this aching in your bones for turkey legs, Enter Sandman, and a sea of maroon and orange.

And it’ll welcome you home.

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Hope from the Homeless

I was sitting in a meeting about a month ago at a table with someone who, if we wanted to make this quantitative, is about 57 levels above me on the professional scale. I got shaky talking to her. And even shakier when, after telling her about my previous work at a homeless shelter, she asked me what motivated me. What a loaded question.

Let me just take a second to say that talking to people in a professional setting about this is both terrifying and beautiful. Terrifying because it forces me to share the gospel—which I love but am quick to avoid. And beautiful because of just that.

I had a private conversation with Jesus in my head that went a little something like this: “She asked.” “Yes but this isn’t really professional.” “She asked.” “But I don’t want to.” “She asked.” “Nope.” “She asked.” “UGH fine.”

Our conversation shifted to the homeless, the fatherless, and the lost.

She got to talking about how, a few years ago, she and her husband took their family to Washington, D.C. for a mini-vacation filled with baseball games, a tour of the city, shopping and eating good food, and, to round out the weekend, a trip to a homeless shelter to serve dinner (because that’s how everyone finishes a vacation, right?). She said she wanted to show her kids how fortunate they were.

First, YES. I think visiting a homeless shelter can teach us some of life’s most beautiful lessons by reminding us to be grateful for all that we have.

But it goes a heck of a lot deeper than realizing how fortunate you are.

From my time with the homeless, I’ve learned how to love deeply. How to persevere. How to choose to have joy in the midst of the worst of worst circumstances. How laughing at hard things makes those things feel less hard. How to fight against oppression. How, even on a thrift store budget, you can look fabulous. How crying doesn’t mean you’re weak–it means you’re strong enough to feel. How unbelievable strengths and talents can be hidden under layers and layers of hurt, addiction, and failures—but how, when those layers are peeled back, confidence abounds and the world becomes a better place.

I learned that I was fortunate when it came to having a job, a house, and a bank account. But I also saw every single day how naïve I truly am. And all it took was committing to talking to these people with the dignity they deserve.

There was a sign in a break room at the Mission that said, “There are no ‘homeless people,’ but rather people who have lost their homes who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Don’t dare to think of the homeless as a standard to base your gratitude off of. Behind the hungry man asking for food on the corner, or the kid who comes to your classroom smelling like he hasn’t showered, or the woman in tattered clothes pushing her double stroller down a busy road with more children on either side of her—there is a sister, a brother, a mother, a father, a friend, a daughter, a son—a person who has landed in a rough situation. A person worthy of your time and attention. A person created and designed and loved.

Let me let some of my friends’ stories speak for themselves.

One guest left her hometown in Africa to come to America for a fresh start. She met a man, had a child, found a job, and lived happily for a few years in Northern Virginia. But, at the drop of a hat, her husband became abusive, and, with her only family on another continent, our shelter was the only safe place she knew of. After a few months of getting her feet on solid ground, I got the privilege of dropping her and her daughter off at her new job as a masseuse at a five-star resort in the mountains. Yes–she was homeless. But she found success because she worked hard.

Another guest entered into a residential recovery program offered at the shelter. He was a veteran turned successful businessman who got addicted to drugs and alcohol and was facing years of jail time. At his graduation ceremony from the program, he said, “People always ask me why I wake up so early each morning. It’s because I’m just so optimistic about every day—I can’t wait to see what the Lord is going to do with it.” He became a friend, an advice-giver, and a picture of redemption.

A man traveled from another country to visit a friend in America, but got stuck in the airport as he tried to return home. He was missing proper documentation, and no one could figure out what to do with him, so they sent him to the shelter. He started suffering from horrible stomach pains and ended up in the hospital. I’d call his hospital room to check in on him, and, after a routine introduction of “Hola Miss Holly,” he’d dive into too many details about his recent medical procedures and digestive issues. But he never, ever gave up in trying to return home, and he taught me what it means to have courage.

I got to spend a ton of time with the kids staying at the shelter. Did you know that, in the small “city” of Roanoke, there’s roughly 60 kids that regularly spend the night at the local shelter? And that’s on a small night. We danced to old-school rap songs, did homework at night, read books and watched movies, and, when things were just too tough to bear, we went to Wendy’s for a frosty. These are kids that have bright futures ahead of them that desperately need to be supported along the way.

And in case a laugh is what you need on this beautiful Tuesday, there was a day that a shelter guest dressed like a (very scary looking) clown and threw candy at the kids as they got off the school bus. I’ll never forget as she sat in my office awaiting a talking-to with the director, with the lipstick she used to paint her face streaking down her cheeks due to the perfectly-timed rainstorm. (She taught me that, sometimes, you’ve just gotta laugh.)

I so badly want to share pictures of all these people, and they take up a whole bunch of space on phone. They are beautiful souls with huge smiles and infectious laughs and eyes that hold deep, deep stories yet glimmer with hope. You’re just going to have to trust me on that.

But, alas, here’s a picture of the Homestead, where tears of joy were shed as I dropped my sweet friend off. This picture screams hope and promise and victory against a system that viciously tries to pull people down.IMG_1020Instead of walking by the woman on the street who asks for spare change, shock her and invite her to lunch at McDonalds. Serving a meal at a homeless shelter is an amazing thing to do–but, as you dish up the food, start a conversation. Ask them about their stories, because I promise you they have one.

And I promise you’ll get more out of it than realizing how fortunate you are.

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